Police chief's memo alleges antagonism
A trustee called both the police department and its chief excellent.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Police Chief Jeffrey Patterson says two trustees are creating a hostile work environment in an attempt to make him resign, and if that fails, they'll construct circumstances to manufacture a cause to fire him.
Patterson, chief since late 2000, submitted a memorandum Friday to Curt B. Seditz, township administrator, titled "hostile work environment," that's included in the chief's personnel file.
Patterson's contract runs through Dec. 31.
He says trustees are "deliberately working to create a work environment so restrictive and hostile that I will resign rather than continue to work under those conditions."
The six-page memo refers to actions by Trustees Kathy Miller and Robyn Gallitto. It refers to Trustee Elaine Mancini as being present during some of the events.
"In the 15 years that I've represented the township, I have never witnessed or experienced anything like what is going on," Mancini said. "We have an excellent police department and an excellent police chief."
She said she couldn't speak to what Gallitto and Miller are "trying to find out or trying to do."
"I can just assure the public that the police department and the police chief follow the highest standards and are of the highest caliber," Mancini said.
Gallitto said she asks questions to ensure accountability to taxpayers.
"It seems the hands-off management style of the previous boards is so different from the accountability we're asking for that some department heads are having a difficult time with the change," she added.
One occurrence Patterson's memo refers to is a March 3 executive session.
Miller showed him a couple pages of class notes he had e-mailed to himself in fall 2005 during his last semester of law school. The chief says he wrote the notes at home, e-mailed them to himself, and printed them at work to review over lunch.
Miller said she was upset, and Patterson offered to let them examine his office computer for evidence of improper use, according to the memo. They accepted.
Mancini left, and Patterson gave Gallitto and Miller "free access for more than an hour" to his office computer.
At the end of the review, Gallitto said there were some personal things but that she didn't see a problem. Miller said she would have to think about what she wanted to do.
"I told them they had four options if they were going to do something -- fire me, suspend me, reprimand me or counsel me," Patterson wrote.
After the March 13 trustees meeting, Patterson again was asked to attend an executive session.
Miller brought up the issue of the class notes again calling it a "gross breach of ethical conduct" and saying he should resign, Patterson said in the memo.
"She said that if I would resign, she would not place any embarrassing reference to this matter in my personnel file" that might hinder his employment search, the chief's memo says.
Patterson said he wouldn't and reiterated the four options. They indicated they didn't want to fire him.
"We discussed it in executive session, and I'm not going to talk about it," Miller said Friday.
She said that she and Gallitto passed a motion March 13 reprimanding Patterson for "violating township policies involving personal use of township equipment."
Patterson's memo says that the board seems intent on getting rid of him as soon as possible and without paying him severance benefits.
"Indeed, I can see no other reasonable interpretation of Mrs. Miller's blatant, ham-handed attempt to blackmail me into resigning by threatening to use a contrived infraction to publicly embarrass me and interfere with my search for other employment if I don't go away quietly," he wrote.
Gallitto disputed Patterson's "contrived infraction" claim, saying that the chief admitted in the meeting that he had used the township computer for personal use.
Patterson also refers to a Dec. 30 meeting with Gallitto shortly before she took office. In that meeting, Gallitto brought up her husband's lawsuits against the township, he says.
Gallitto's husband, Nick Levinsky, a sergeant with the police department, sued the township and its civil service commission, contending a promotion exam wasn't properly scored. The lawsuit was unsuccessful.
"She pressured me to say that her husband was right in his claim against the township and insisted that I should have intervened on his behalf," Patterson wrote.
Gallitto said she conducted meetings with all of the department heads before taking office to familiarize herself with department operations.
"No one else felt it created a hostile work environment," she said.
She said she only brought up the lawsuit when asking the chief if he thought that having two employees involved in a lawsuit working together affected morale.
Gallitto also said she asked Patterson if he had ever given his opinion on the matter and didn't say he should have intervened.
Patterson said that Gallitto also expressed opposition to the accreditation process through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc.
Gallitto said she questioned whether it was the most effective use of township money.
"I'm not saying that CALEA doesn't have value," she said.
The chief said that Gallitto also indicated opposition to a new substation on the township's north end.
"Although she didn't mention it, her husband had recently attempted to oust the supervisor of the unit working out of that substation and had tried to take his place," according to the memo.
"I had denied her husband's request, and his grievance had also been denied."
Gallitto said she brought up the substation in an effort to understand it as part of department operations. She questioned the rent amount, how the location was picked and how it's staffed.
She said she doesn't know details of the grievance to which Patterson refers.
"I met with all of the department heads at length and reviewed the budgets and operations in detail," Gallitto said.
"I find it curious that the department head who has the largest number of employees, and the largest amount of our budget, has the biggest problem with being questioned."